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Dear Diary: A Letter from WordCamp San Francisco

August 2, 2013

Dear Diary,

This was my first time to go to WordCamp San Francisco. I heard it was the “mothership” of WordCamps and was not disappointed. The hallways of Mission Bay Conference Center were loud with the hum of excitement and good conversation – There were roughly 800 WordPress campers there!

But before I start in on WordCamp, let me back up and tell you one thing about Thursday evening. The WordCamp organizers (counselors?) hosted a reception for speakers at the Automattic offices (those offices are awesome, but more on that later). Right off the bat I got to meet Matt Mullenweg (swoon!) and thank him for creating a product that enables me to make a living. He’s very zen-like and humble. If you’ve never heard him speak, you should go checkout the State of the Word 2013 talk. After you’re finished reading this, of course.

Okay, next I want to tell you all about:

The Sessions

If you’ve ever been to a WordCamp (well, of course you haven’t – you’re a DIARY – but humor me)… well, it’s a bummer to have to choose between three or four awesome sessions in a time slot. This year’s camp featured only two tracks: one for Developers & Designers and the other for Users & Entrepreneurs.

I ended up splitting my time pretty evenly between the two, bouncing back and forth depending on the session topic and occasionally wishing I could bi-locate (thank goodness for where the sessions live on)!

WordCamp Session

Mark Jaquith’s Session

The developer/designer track was heavy on theme topics, like internationalization, inspiring design, and pro tips for theme developers. The user/entrepreneur track wasn’t for the feint of heart either. I learned about BuddyPress and MultiSite, tips for working on a project with non-technie partners, and ways to contribute to the WordPress community (a topic near and dear to me!).

You may have been wondering why I was at that speaker reception… Well, I got to speak about Collaboration and Competition. Here’s the bottom line: Be nice, help level up others, and be competitive in a way that makes better products for your customers.

The People

WordCamp Friends

Photo courtesy of Raquel Landefeld

The sessions were informative and all, but the real magic of WordCamp happened in the hallways and around the lunch tables. So many heroes I admire in the WordPress community in ONE LOCATION. Plus, so many friends I didn’t even know I wanted to meet but was happy I did.

A little conversation here, a big wheel-turner of a conversation there. I mean, it will take some time to process. Just by keeping my ears open, I picked up some great tidbits on tools to use (especially for development and deployment), workflow process (I should be using version control, GIT OFF MY BACK), and things I didn’t even know I needed to know, like the philosophy of where a theme ends and a plugin begins.

But Diary, this was no time to just be a fly on the wall and listen. I marched right up and introduced myself to people I wanted to meet, like Pippin Williamson, Siobhan McKeown, and Morten Rand-Hendriksen. They seem larger than life online, but in real life are just cool, down-to-earth people.

Want to know the secret to expanding your network? Attend a WordCamp!

The Swag

Oh my gosh, I could build an entire wardrobe out of WordPress t-shirts! There were at least EIGHT different t-shirt giveaways by WordCamp sponsors (most of them were hosting companies), plus the official WordCamp San Francisco tee. And stickers? There were enough to cover my laptop like one big WordPress bumper sticker.

WordCamp San Francisco Swag

A week’s worth of WordPress t-shirts. Look, ma, no laundry!

Next time I go to camp, I won’t even have to pack shirts. Unless all the sponsors switch it up and do hat giveaways, in which case I’ll be buying some new shirts.

The After Party

Two full days of WordCamp sessions and my brain was tapped out. I was ready for a little R&R with my new camp friends. Once the Saturday sessions were done, everybody was invited to the shiny new Automattic offices on Hawthorne St. to let loose.

WordCamp After Party

Photo courtesy of Naoko Takano

Let’s talk about the Automattic offices for a sec – the downstairs area has a full-on designer kitchen (food raid!), a fridge stocked with everything needed to power smart minds, a bathroom that feels like a yoga studio, a museum of t-shirts from WordCamps past, and… get this… an indoor parking space!

As if one floor of awesome wasn’t enough, there’s an upstairs, too. On the second floor there are clusters of couches and chairs to use for group workspace, plenty of outlets for charging devices, and a Rock Band setup for crazy wailing on the mic. Oh yeah, and a shuffleboard table. And an endless supply of Cokes. Watch out Matt, I might just move in.

Photo used with permission of Jaki Levy (

Photo courtesy of Jaki Levy

Okay, so back to the party. Plenty of open space for mingling, dancing, and pool playing. The DJ kept the tunes pumping and, bless them, the bartenders kept the drinks flowing. There were even WordPress cupcakes to snack on. All in all, it was a great time to keep the good connections going in a relaxed atmosphere.

Rumor has it there was even an AFTER-after-party at a karaoke joint. WordCampers know how to have some major fun.

The Day of Contributing!

From 11pm Saturday to 11am Sunday, the Automattic offices were transformed from party zone to major work space. Dozens of fold-out tables were set up and bins (BINS!) of extension cords were brought out to accommodate the nearly 200 people who showed up to help knock out some WordPress community work.

WordCamp Contributor Day

Photo courtesy of Naoko Takano

This wasn’t just a “hack” day, there was all kinds of WordPress work being done, like answering support questions, updating documentation, and fixing trac tickets. If you were around on Saturday, you may have noticed the flurry of activity!

Everyone was divided up into smaller teams and tasked with a particular support area. It was cool to see so many different skill sets being used together to power the WordPress community. In case you’re wondering how YOU can get involved, here’s a primer.

‘Til Next Time

All good things must come to an end, including this year’s WordCamp, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops. I am inspired and excited to try out the things I’ve learned and follow up with my new friends online.

If you want to read even more awesome tales from WordCamp San Francisco, check out this great compilation of articles or search for #wcsf on Twitter.

One more thing before I sign off… You should know that WordCamp San Francisco isn’t the only WordCamp around – there have already been 74 across the world this year! You can get the scoop on the WordCamp nearest you right here.  I hope to see you soon!

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  1. AJ Clarke | WPExplorer

    Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your experience! I wasn’t able to attend this year unfortunately. Really hope I can next year!

  2. Carrie Dils

    I’ll definitely make plans to be there in 2014. Hope to meet you then if not sooner!

    • AJ Clarke | WPExplorer

      That would be cool! I would like to attend in 2014 as well. I actually haven’t been to a SF WordCamp yet. I’ve been to WC in San Diego 3 times and thats it.

  3. Ben

    It is nice to live vicariously through the people who went to WCSF. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to go, until then I will continue to read these GREAT articles.

    • cdils

      Thanks, Ben! Doesn’t have to be WCSF – just get yourself to the closest WordCamp and enjoy! 🙂

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